The Kingdom of God in the New Testament

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Summary of The Kingdom of God in the New Testament

I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. 12 The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament I. Howard Marshall [p.213] Christian hope is manifestly based on the promises and actions of God, and therefore it is not surprising that a discussion of the Kingdom of God (henceforward abbreviated in this essay as KG) should figure in a symposium on ‘The Spirit and the New Age’. Although the phrase has been the subject ‘of much biblical research in recent years, and although it is banded about with great frequency in discussions of Christian social action, it is unfortunately often the case that it is used in a very vague manner and that there is a lack of clear biblical exposition in the churches on the meaning of the term. Our aim in this essay will be to harvest and assess some of the recent scholarly discussion with a view to showing how an understanding of the KG can give fresh vigour to our Christian hope in God. Introduction Discussion of the KG was particularly spirited up to about 1965, and by that date a certain consensus appeared to be developing about the meaning and significance of the KG, especially as the phrase appears in the Synoptic Gospels.1 Some of the main points that emerged can be summed up as follows: 1. The writers of the Gospels regarded the KG as being the central theme of the teaching of Jesus. This can be seen from the frequency with which the phrase appears on the lips of Jesus as compared with other theological concepts,2 as well as from the way in which the Evangelists themselves iden- 1 W. G. Kümmel, Promise and Fulfilment (London, 1957); G. E. Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom (London, 1966); N. Perrin, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (Philadelphia, 1963); R Schnackenburg, God’s Rule and Kingdom (London, 1963). For summaries of the discussion, see O. E. Evans in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, 1962), 11, pp. 17-26; B. Klappert in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Exeter, 1976), 11, pp. 372-90; G. Mein, ‘The Biblical Understanding of the Kingdom of God’, Interpretation, 26, 1972, pp. 387-418; 1. H. Marshall in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, 1975), III, pp. 801-9. For more recent studies, see H. Merklein, Jesu Botschaft von der Gottesherrschaft (Stuttgart, 1983), and G. R Beasley-Murray, The Coming of God (Exeter, 1983); Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, 1986). 2 The following comparison may be instructive: Matthew Mark Luke Kingdom of God 50 15 39 Believe, faith 24 20 26 I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. [p.214] tify it as the burden of Jesus’ message.3 Consequently, scholars tended to regard the KG as being in fact the principal concept in the actual teaching of Jesus.4 2. Among scholars who approached the Gospel records with a rigorously critical methodology for separating off what they regarded as the authentic teaching of Jesus from later elements wrongly ascribed to him, it was agreed that some of the texts about the KG must belong to any critically established ‘irreducible minimum’ of the teaching of Jesus.5 3. According to the Evangelists, Jesus announced both that the KG would come in the near future as the consummation of God’s purpose and that it was already present in some way during his ministry as the fulfilment of God’s promises. One is tempted to say that there was an increasing consensus on how this evidence ought to be interpreted, namely that both of these elements were to be taken at their face value as authentic aspects of the teaching of Jesus; the only problem that then remained was to explain how these two elements could be integrated with each other, one important suggestion being that the promise of the KG was fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus and would be consummated in the future.6 Nevertheless, there was a continuing powerful body of opinion that accepted that the KG was an entirely future entity in the proclamation of Jesus and that it was regarded as present only in the sense that an event that is known to be impending can have decisive effects on how people see the time just before its arrival.7 Father (used of God) 44 4 17 Love 12 8 16 Parable 17 13 18 Son of man 26 14 24 Spirit, Holy 12 6 17 3 See Matthew 4.23; 9.35; cf. 13.19; 24.14; Mark 1.15; Luke 4.43; 8.1; 9.2, 11, 60. 4 A significant non-conformist on this point is E. Bammel, ‘Erwägungen zur Eschatologie Jesu’, in F. L. Cross (ed.), Studia Evangelica III (TU 88, Berlin, 1964), pp. 3-32. 5 N. Perrin’s book Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (London, 1967) is more ruthless than the author’s earlier work listed above and may be regarded as fixing the low-water mark for English-speaking scholars; yet even he insists that there are strong arguments for the authenticity of Matthew 12.28/Luke 11.29 Q; Luke 17.20ff.; Matthew 11.12/Luke 16.16 Q and for other, parabolic sayings. The Continental low-water mark is fixed by H. Schürmann, Gottes Reich�Jesu Geschick (Freiburg, 1983), p. 135, who feels reasonably secure in holding only to Luke 11.2-4; 6-20; 11.20; 12.31 and 13.18ff (with parallels as appropriate). 6 See especially the works of G. E. Ladd and R Schnackenburg cited above; L. Goppelt, New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, 1981), I, pp. 51-67. 7 J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology (London, 1971), I, p. 102: ‘(Jesus’) meaning is that the eschatological hour of God, the victory of God, the consummation of the world, is near. Indeed it is very near.’ Similarly, H. Conzelmann, An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament (London, 1969), pp. 106-15; R H. Hiers, The Kingdom of God in the Synoptic Tradition (Gainesville, 1970). I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. 4. The term ‘KG’ refers primarily to the sovereign activity of God as ruler or king and only secondarily to the realm over which he rules.8 Its content is the saving and judging action of God. 5. In so far as the KG could be regarded as being present, it was so in and through the proclamation and activity of Jesus, and its presence (or, for upholders of the alternative view, its imminence) was evidenced in his parables and mighty works.9 Some twenty years later the mood of scholarship on these points has not undergone any substantial changes. However, there remain a number of questions where further precision is desirable, and some progress in answering them has been made. Some of these questions are: 1. Can we be more precise about the actual ways in which Jesus used the term ‘KG’? For example, did he use it simply in ways familiar to his audience, or did he implicitly transform its content, just as he appears to have done with other theological concepts? 2. How is the KG related to other concepts that appear in the teaching of Jesus? 3. How did Jesus see his own role in relation to the KG? This question [p.215] needs to be asked quite specifically with reference to Jesus’ self-understanding of his identity and role as well as with reference to his premonition of his own death. 4. What did Jesus envisage as the results of his proclamation of the KG? To what extent did his message have a communal or corporate dimension so far as his own lifetime was concerned? 5. In what ways did Jesus envisage the future dimension of the KG? Had he any place in his thinking for what we know as the Church? 6. Granted that the early Church stood in some kind of continuity with Jesus and his teaching, what happened to the KG in its proclamation and its theology? This is a question that can be raised in two contexts. First, there is the theology of the Church reflected in the New Testament epistles which is not overtly based on the sayings of Jesus. Second, there is the tradition of the teaching of Jesus which was handed down at first by word of mouth and then incorporated in the written Gospels. What did the early Church make of the KG? 8 The need to think again about this point was shown by S. Aalen, ‘“Reign” and “House” in the Kingdom of God in the Gospels’, NTS, 8, 1961-62, pp. 215-40. 9 The basic study of the present sayings is Kümmel, Promise and Fulfilment. He argues that, ‘Jesus saw the Kingdom of God to be present before the parousia, which he thought to be imminent, only in his own person and his works; he knew no other realization of the eschatological consummation’ (p. 140). I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. These points constitute a formidable agenda, and it will not be possible to treat any of them in an adequate way in a brief essay, still less to deal with all of them. It will, however, be clear that the answers to some of them are very relevant to the topic of Christian hope in that the questions force us to explore different aspects of the nature of the hope held by Jesus. Further, if we can see how the early church appropriated and made use of the teaching of Jesus, this may help us in turn as we seek to understand and apply the teaching of Jesus and his followers for today. The meaning of ‘Kingdom of God’ As has been indicated already, there is a growing agreement that the phrase ‘KG’ should be taken to refer primarily to God’s sovereignty rather than to the realm over which he is sovereign. It will then refer to God’s sovereignty in contrast to that of Satan (Luke 11.18), who is the ruler of ‘this world’ (John 12.31; 14.30). Those who adopt this view tend on the whole to assume that the reference must be to a specific act of divine rule, so that one can ask, when is the Kingdom of God coming? (cf. Luke 17.20). It is this assumption that causes problems when the teaching of Jesus that the KG is both present and future is examined, and it is understandable that some scholars should want to explain away either the present or the future dimension. A possible way out of the impasse has been suggested by N. Perrin. His contribution is to show that KG may be a ‘symbol’ for ‘God acting in sovereign power’ (i.e., God acting with might and imposing his authority so that people obey him). If KG functions in this way as a symbol, then it need not [p.216] refer simply to a promised future realm or to a single mighty act by God. Rather, by the use of the words ‘Jesus is deliberately evoking the myth of the activity of God on behalf of his people the exorcisms are a manifestation of that activity in the experience of his hearers.... KG is here a symbol, and it is used in this saying because of its evocative power. The saying is a challenge to the hearers to take the ancient myth with renewed seriousness, and to begin to anticipate the manifestation of the reality of which it speaks in the concrete actuality of their experience.’ Again, ‘the symbol of the kingly activity of God on behalf of his people confronts the hearers of Jesus as a true tensive symbol with its evocation of a whole set of meanings, and ... the myth is, in the message of Jesus, true myth with its power to mediate the experience of existential reality’.10 Perrin is here making use of a distinction between symbols that have a one-to-one relationship to what they signify (as, for example, the mathematical symbol pi signifies a precise, unique quantity) and symbols that ‘can have a set of meanings that can neither be exhausted nor adequately expressed by any one referent’,11 and he is claiming that KG falls into the latter 10 N. Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom (Philadelphia, 1976), pp. 43, 45. 11 Ibid., p. 30. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. category. When Jesus uses the term ‘KG’ he is pointing beyond the phrase to that which it signifies, namely the powerful action of God that can be expressed in a whole range of situations. In a similar way, B. D. Chilton has argued that KG is an expression for ‘the saving revelation of God himself or ‘God in strength’, and that it refers to ‘a personal God revealed’. This means that the KG need not be tied down in time; it can refer ‘in the first place to God’s self-revelation and derivatively to the joy of men in his presence’, and hence it can further be used to refer to ‘the reward held ready’ in Luke 12.32.12 Chilton’s view is based on an exhaustive discussion of a set of texts in the Gospels that he examines in the light of their Jewish background, especially in the diction of the Targums. The approach of Perrin and Chilton is a very attractive one in that it offers a way out of the present/future dilemma that has shaped discussion of the KG for so long. It suggests that the dilemma is a false one, since a reference to ‘God acting in power’ is clearly not to be tied down to any one particular manifestation of the power of God. Nevertheless, closer scrutiny of it leads to some critical comments and some doubts as to its viability. First, it must be noted that Perrin does not seem to be too sure of the ontological status of what is represented by the symbol. He speaks of the ‘myth’ that is evoked by the symbol. Now it is certainly not the case that the use of the word ‘myth’ should automatically arouse suspicion in the minds of evangelical Christians, for the category of ‘myth’ can have a valid and proper use in Christian theology just like any [p.217] other literary genre that is in itself neutral. Admittedly Perrin may be adopting a position near to that of R Bultmann, whose influence on his thinking is freely admitted, but it should be observed that in this particular book he is critical of some aspects of Bultmann’s position. Rather one may appropriate Perrin’s insights by saying that the ‘story’ of God acting in power is the correct interpretation of, say, the exorcisms performed by Jesus, events that, might be understood otherwise but that are in fact pointers to a correct understanding of the activity of Jesus as a manifestation of God’s saving power. The position of Perrin is thus somewhat ambiguous. However, this observation does not apply to the work of Chilton, who interprets the Gospels in the context of an orthodox understanding of the Christian faith. Much more to the point is our second critical comment. In both cases the interpreters gain their understanding of the meaning of KG from the examination of a limited group of texts that they believe can be shown to be authentic sayings of Jesus.13 One is tempted to say that any saying of Jesus that Perrin accepts as authentic must be authentic, for he belongs to a particularly sceptical 12 B. D. Chilton, God in Strength (Freistadt, 1979), pp. 285ff; ‘Regnum Dei Deus Est’, SJT, 31, 1978, pp. 261-70. 13 Thus H. Merklein, Jesu Botschaft von der Gottesherrschaft, p. 38, argues that sayings in which KG is a spatial term all come from a stratum in the gospel tradition that is later than Jesus, and that he used the term only in a dynamic sense. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. group of scholars. Consequently, our understanding of KG must do justice to the texts that Perrin invokes. However, this leaves us with two problems. On the one hand, Perrin has to admit that for the most part the Jews to whom Jesus spoke saw KG as a symbol with a single reference; we must ask, then, whether Jesus would have been speaking meaningfully to them if he had shifted the force of the term significantly. On the other hand, we have to face the problem of the remaining KG texts in the Gospels. If a wider group of texts than those examined by Perrin and Chilton proves to be authentic, then we must ask whether they burst open the definition that has been offered and lead us to a different one. Even, however, if the other usages in the Gospels are to be attributed to the followers of Jesus rather than to himself, it may still be the case that this is a pointer to the fact that they understood Jesus differently from Perrin and Chilton, and we shall have to ask whether this makes the view of the modern scholars doubtful. In short, we have to ask whether Perrin and Chilton’s view still holds when a wider body of relevant evidence is taken into account. Consequently, in understanding such an examination we must begin by asking how Jesus’ audience would have understood him. Now Perrin himself has shown that the background of the teaching of Jesus lies in the apocalyptic understanding of the KG as God’s action rather than in the Rabbinic concept of the KG as the expression of God’s demands upon his people enshrined in the Torah, or Law.14 KG was not all that common a term in Judaism but it appears to have been used for that future state of affairs when God’s rule would be established and would bring peace and happiness for his people. [p.218] Sometimes the idea is close to that of the ‘age to come’ that will succeed this age and that will be ushered in by the resurrection of the dead.15 The important point is that God brings about this new era by his own mighty action. Although the Jews spoke of ‘the age to come’, they did not regard it as being ‘beyond history’ but rather as being the next stage in history, brought into being by God’s action in history, bringing the rule of Satan to an end and commencing his own rule. Thus the KG is the full and powerful manifestation of the sovereignty that God already exercises over the world. Various texts in the Gospels speak of the KG as this future state of affairs to be established by God. The KG as the future state of the righteous is contrasted with Gehenna, the abode of the unrighteous dead (Mark 9.47). The righteous will enter the Kingdom prepared for them while the unrighteous are cast into outer darkness (Matt. 25.34). It will be a time of surprises for Jesus’ contemporaries when they see the patriarchs admitted while they themselves are excluded (Matt. 8.11/Luke 13.29 Q. Jesus talks in the future tense about entry into this realm (Matt. 7.21), and he 14 Perrin, The Kingdom of God, pp. 56ff. 15 See Ps. Sol. 17; Ass. Moses 10.1-10; Sib. Orac. 3.46-56, 652-4, 767-89; Qaddish; Tg. Gn. 49.10ff. Other references in the apocalyptic literature are to the present sovereignty of God over Israel and the nations (Ps. Sol. 5.21; Jub. 12.19; 1 En. 84.2f; T. Reub. 6; T. Jud. 21; 1QM 6.6; Shemoneh Esreh 14). I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. himself looks forward to sharing in eating and drinking in the new situation after the KG has come (Mark 14.25; Luke 22.16, 18). In all this Jesus reflects Jewish expectations (Luke 14.25). Jesus’ audience would have understood and accepted this basic expectation. He was operating with the same framework of ideas as they did, and if he had not done so, his teaching would have been unintelligible to them. One area of surprise would have been in his statements about who would be present in the KG; he shattered the easy assumption that any members of the people of Israel would qualify for entrance simply on the basis of their scrupulous observance of the Pharisaic legislation. More significant is the question of time. According to Luke, the nature of Jesus’ activity must have been such as to lead people to think that the KG would appear ‘immediately’ (Luke 19.11) and to cause some Pharisees to ask when the KG was coming (Luke 17.20).16 The interpretation of the crucial statements in Matthew 10.7/Luke 10.9 Q and Mark 1.15 is disputed;17 they can be taken to mean either that the KG has already arrived or that its coming is imminent; were these sayings perhaps genuinely ambiguous? In Mark 9.1 Jesus refers to people who would not die before they saw that the KG had come; the authenticity of the saying is disputed, as is its interpretation.18 In Luke 21.31 Jesus refers to a future point at which people will know that the KG is near.19 In addition, there are various texts that suggest that the day of judgement or the coming of the Son of man is imminent.20 The thought of the imminence of the end is firmly embedded in the gospel tradition, but direct references to the imminence of the KG are not very frequent, and it [p.219] is difficult to say that the distinctive teaching of Jesus lies here. What is much more strongly attested is Jesus’ teaching that the KG was already in some sense present in his ministry. The evidence for this has often been discussed and need not be rehearsed here in detail; the key texts are Matthew 11.12/Luke 16.16 Q; Matthew 12.28/Luke 11.20 Q; and Luke 17.21 together with Matthew 10.7/Luke 10.9 (11) Q and Mark 1.15, which, in my opinion belong here rather than with the futurist texts.21 These verses indicate that the action of God in bringing in the KG has already begun, so that Jesus can declare quite simply and plainly that the KG has arrived. So strong is this impression that C. H. Dodd could see no room for any teaching about a future coming in the outlook of Jesus; while he undoubtedly did not do justice to the 16 Even if Luke himself created the situation in Luke 17.20, the question attributed to the Pharisees is entirely credible. See I. H. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke (Exeter, 1978), pp. 653 ff. 17 See ibid., pp. 422 ff. 18 Ibid., pp. 377-9. 19 Only Luke has supplied ‘the Kingdom of God’ as the subject of the verb ‘is near’ (cf. Mark 13.9); Mark may have thought that the reference was to the coming of the Son of man, but there is no essential difference. 20 Mark 13.32; Matthew 24.42, 50/Luke 12.46 Q; Matthew 25.13; 10.23; 24.44; Luke 18.8; 21.36. Some of these formulations may belong to the Evangelists. 21 See Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, pp. 628-30, 475ff, 655ff. and 422ff. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. future elements in the teaching of Jesus, the point to be stressed here is that he established the fundamental importance of the texts that testify to the presence of the KG.22 It is these texts that convey the distinctive element in the teaching of Jesus about the KG. To say that the End was near was not unprecedented. To say that the future KG was already present was unparalleled. The crucial question in interpretation is now whether this remarkable strand of teaching stands in genuine continuity with that about the future reign of God. Essentially the options reduce to two. The one is to say that the link lies in the concept of imminence or ‘nearness’: for Jesus the KG was so close in time that the whole of present life was coloured by its imminence. Whether he spoke of the KG as being virtually present and saw his mighty works as the precursors of its coming, or whether he could say that there was a sense in which the near Kingdom was already operative, the point is that his ministry derived its impetus and validity from the belief that the KG was very near, and with it the coming of the Son of man and the end of the present age. This view, which is that of scholars such as E. Grässer, who is its most consistent and able advocate, faces insurmountable difficulties. Those who hold this view have to admit that Jesus was mistaken in regard to the specific form of this hope that he held. The KG did not come in the way he prophesied, and consequently the validity of his whole message, inasmuch as it was based on this hope, is completely taken away. Scholars who interpret the teaching of Jesus in this way agree that this is so, and they then have to show how the early Church had to modify the tradition of the teaching of Jesus to take account of the ‘delay of the parousia’ and so produce an alternative theology in which the hope of the future coming of the KG is given little or no place and is replaced by an emphasis on the present working of God by the Spirit in the Church.23 But this is highly unsatisfactory. Some people may be prepared to allow that Jesus was a mistaken [p.220] prophet, but, if so, it is not clear that attempts to revamp his teaching can carry much conviction, and it looks rather as though one mistaken mythology is simply being replaced by another dubious mythology of the Spirit. The basic problem remains as to how the teaching of Jesus can in any way be valid when it rests on a set of mistaken assumptions. Nor were these assumptions peripheral ones; they were concerned with the central theme of his message. The second type of option is to recognize that the essential or distinctive element in the teaching of Jesus was his proclamation that the KG which his hearers expected to come in the future was already present in his ministry. God’s purpose, prophesied in the Old Testament, was being brought to fulfilment in an unexpected manner. The best way to express this is probably in terms of concealment or veiled manifestation.24 What this means is that the popular expectation of the KG was of an open, public, and final act of sovereignty by God that would establish his rule in 22 C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom (London, 1961). 23 E. Grässer, Das Problem der Parusieverzögerung in den synoptischen Evangelien and in der Apostelgeschichte (Berlin, 1977). 24 See especially C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to St Mark (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 638; H. Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Philadelphia, 1962). I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. the world and bring its benefits to his people, but Jesus believed and taught that God was already acting in his ministry powerfully but secretly to establish that realm and to initiate a chain of events that would lead up to and include the End of popular expectation. There was thus a real and genuine manifestation of God’s power, but it was in a sense veiled and secret. If this view is sound, then it means that the basis of the proclamation of Jesus was a valid one, the belief that God was already fulfilling the prophecy of the coming of the KG. Or rather, the validity of Jesus’ proclamation depends not on whether he was correct or mistaken about the nearness of the KG in the future, but on whether he was correct or mistaken about the reality of God’s action in the present. Further, the problem of continuity between the present and the future aspects of Jesus’ teaching is solved. What Jesus taught was that the KG which the Jews expected in the future was already a reality. God was acting in power and consequently his realm was already in existence. Thus Jesus retained the traditional understanding of the KG as God’s future realm initiated by his powerful action, but he transformed it 1. by declaring that the point in time at which it was to appear had already arrived, and 2. by indicating that the way in which it was appearing was different from what was traditionally expected. By understanding the teaching of Jesus in this way we can give a satisfactory and coherent account of a larger corpus of sayings than Perrin and Chilton and place the teaching of Jesus within the structures of Jewish thinking-structures that he transformed in an intelligible way. Such an understanding, it should be emphasized, is not an arbitrary one imposed on the evidence at the cost of straining some texts to make them fit into the [p.221] pattern. Rather, starting from texts that in our opinion have strong claims to being authentic, we have been able to achieve a consistent and coherent understanding of the teaching of Jesus into which other texts whose authenticity might otherwise perhaps be suspect can be fitted by the so- called criterion of coherence. Moreover, we have established a vital point for our understanding of Christian hope that will be developed as we proceed further. Christian hope is often thought of as being somehow based on the future. Such hope is in danger of remaining precisely that and nothing more�hope. For hope to have substance it must be rooted in and related to something else�a conviction about the character of God, such as, for example, that he keeps his promises or that he has done certain things in the past. The teaching of Jesus about the KG enshrines the conviction that God has already begun to act in the world and will complete what he has begun. Thus the validity of the hope depends upon the validity of the conviction that God is already at work in the world. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. What Jesus taught about the Kingdom In the discussion of a concept such as the KG it is important to distinguish between the meaning of the phrase itself and what is said about it. The distinction is not always easy to observe in practice, and in the previous section we have had to transgress it. There we were concerned primarily with the meaning of the phrase in itself, but it was impossible to establish this without paying attention to the way in which it was used and to the contexts in which it appeared. The result of our investigation so far has been to show that KG did not simply function as a symbol for ‘God acting in sovereign power’ but rather that it referred to that realm that the Jews expected to be set up by the sovereign power of God in fulfilment of prophecy. Starting from this point we can give a coherent account of the use of the term by Jesus, and we can see that he began to use the term in a new way by claiming that the KG had already come and that it was present in an unexpected manner. We must now explore further what Jesus said about the KG. How did he use the term? The way in which Jesus used the term ‘KG’ in a new way has been helpfully explored by J. Riches in Jesus and the Transformation of Judaism.25 He tries to show how Jesus could take over a term like KG and retain its core meaning, while ridding it of some of its conventional associations and substituting others. Essentially his argument is that Jesus referred to the KG in the context of actions by himself that related it to his belief in a forgiving and merciful God who willed that people should love one another. Thus the [p.222] concept was purged of its nationalist and martial associations and was linked to ideas of mercy and forgiveness extended to people of all kinds. The essential point that is being made here is a sound one that had of course been recognized by earlier scholars. The merit of Riches’s presentation is that he is able to link what Jesus was doing in the case of the KG with his trans- formation of the ideas of purity and of God himself and thus to give a coherent account of the teaching of Jesus. In this way the KG clearly becomes a symbol of hope for the downtrodden in society. It expresses the attitude of God to such people and declares that his concern is for them. Jesus’ teaching is that God is at work to establish a new community. The bliss that is associated with the age to come is already being experienced, and this bliss is not just for the people who think they are entitled to it by virtue of their religious orthodoxy and adherence to the Jewish law. At the same time, however, Jesus purged the concept of its nationalistic associations. We should be clear about what was actually happening here. It is commonly thought that the Jewish concept of the KG was a nationalistic and military one, and that Jesus replaced this image with a spiritual one. In fact, however, the Jewish concept was both nationalistic and spiritual. The description of the KG in Psalms of Solomon 17 combines both elements: 25 J. Riches, Jesus and the Transformation of Judaism (London, 1980), pp 87-111. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David, at the time in which you see, O God, that he may reign over Israel your servant. Gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, and that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample her down to destruction. Wisely, righteously, he shall thrust out sinners from the inheritance. He shall destroy the pride of the sinner as a potter’s vessel. With a rod of iron he shall break in pieces all their substance. He shall destroy the godless nations with the word of his mouth. At his rebuke nations shall flee before him, and he shall reprove sinners for the thoughts of their heart. He shall gather together a holy people, whom he shall lead in righteousness, and he shall judge the tribes of the people that has been sanctified by the Lord his God. He shall not suffer unrighteousness to lodge any more in their midst, nor shall there dwell with them any man that knows wickedness. For he shall know them, that they are all sons of their God.26 Here vengeance on the godless nations and holiness among the people of Israel are closely linked together. Jesus, therefore, has to purge away the nationalist elements in the Jewish concept of the KG and to lay stress on the spiritual elements. Now this approach is not without its problems as soon as we try to apply [p.223] it to the situation of the downtrodden. On the one hand, the plight of the downtrodden is often due to the violent and ungodly in the nation itself and, on the other hand, it may be due to the violent and ungodly people of other nations. In first-century Palestine both types of oppression existed, just as they do today in many parts of the world. In what ways did Jesus envisage the KG as the solution to the needs of the people? There is no programme of social action in the teaching of Jesus about the KG. He is concerned with the relationships of individuals to God, and the behaviour that will result from that. On the one side, he offered to the needy forgiveness, integration into the community of God’s people, and physical healing. On the other side, he called those who followed him to a life in which their total attitude must be one of love to God and their neighbour and of commitment to himself as Teacher and Master. His teaching about non-violence did not, in my opinion, forbid the use of restrained force (as opposed to violence) to preserve law and order, but it certainly forbade the excesses of armed conflict and insurrection. Nevertheless, in his preaching Jesus certainly condemned verbally the hypocrisy and greed of those who oppressed the poor and the outcasts of society, and he attacked the people of Israel as a whole for their failure to live as the people of God. But how effective are words, even if accompanied by a few beneficial miracles? People might well have concluded that nothing much was happening. Jesus took care of this point in his teaching. The so-called parables of growth depicted the secret, quiet beginnings of the KG and gave the assurance that what was scarcely visible in its beginnings would grow, like a plant from a seed, until its effects were manifest and great (Mark 4.26-29, 30-32). Consequently, Jesus could 26 Ps. Sol. 17.23-30. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. speak about the ‘mystery’ of the KG (Mark 4.11; ‘mysteries’ in Matt. 13.11 and Luke 8.10). A ‘mystery’ is a divine secret that God reveals to the people who are able to understand it, such as his prophets in Old Testament times. Jesus told his followers that it was they who were privileged to be the recipients of his revelation concerning the KG. The mystery or secret was that the KG had come in the person, deeds, and words of Jesus. For those with the eyes to see, things were happening, but others could easily persuade themselves that nothing of significance was happening. Within the community formed by Jesus, new relationships did exist in which the needy could find a love that expressed itself both in material provision and in loving acceptance. This was something that was visible�‘See how these Christians love one another’ presumably reflects what some pagans actually said, even if the wording stems from a Christian apologist. At the same time there is no doubting that the early Christian groups were on occasion characterized by a lack of love and by material greed (see 1 Cor.), [p.224] so that outsiders might also be tempted to think that there was nothing distinctive about them. We can now move on to suggest some additional features that arise out of the teaching of Jesus on the KG when it is put in the total context of his teaching. The Kingdom of God and the Father The first is that with the concept of the KG there is closely associated Jesus’ understanding of God. The KG is specifically linked with the thought of God as Father in Luke 12.32; 22.29ff. (contrast Matt. 19.28); Matthew 13.43; 25.34. In the references in Luke it is God as the Father who bestows the KG on the disciples and Jesus respectively. The two references in Matthew also occur in material addressed to disciples. This is congruent with the fact established by T. W. Manson that Jesus did not preach about God as Father to all and sundry but revealed him to his disciples.27 Of crucial significance in this connection is the fact that the Lord’s Prayer begins with the words, ‘Father, may your name be hallowed, may your kingdom come’, thus linking closely the name of ‘Father’ and the KG. Jesus starts from the situation of Jewish piety in which people were accustomed to pray to God, and he directs his disciples into his understanding of God as Father. We observe, first, that the prayer is one for God to act to establish his rule. It was common ground between Jesus and his audience that the coming of the KG is the act of God and not of persons, even though God would use persons in the fulfilment of his purpose. Jewish literature of the time shows that here Jesus was saying nothing new.28 Second, the God who establishes his rule is the God whom Jesus addresses as ‘Father’. The fact that Jesus used an intimate form of address that appears to be unparalleled in contemporary 27 T. W. Manson, The Teaching of Jesus (Cambridge, 1935), pp. 89-115. 28 See Ps. Sol. (cited in n. 26); Ass. Moses 10.1; Sib. Orac. 3.47f, 767f; Qaddish Prayer (‘May he set up his kingdom’). Jesus need not be referring exclusively to the future, imminent Kingdom; his words can refer to God’s action now. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. Palestinian Judaism and that he taught his followers to know God in the same intimate manner as he himself enjoyed needs no further elaboration here.29 This has an important consequence for the understanding of the KG. As A. M. Hunter put it, ‘The King in the Kingdom is a Father.’30 This fact indicates that the KG is primarily concerned with the creation of a family; the character of the King is the model for the character of the members (Matt. 5.48/Luke 6.36 Q. Third, in this context it is God the Father who is at the centre of Jesus’ teaching. The petition for the KG to come is preceded by the petition that God will cause his name to be hallowed. This is important because it shows that the coming of the KG and the hallowing of God’s name are parallel concepts and indeed that they are very closely associated.31 It is by concentrating attention on the Lord’s Prayer as the critically assured minimum of [p.225] Jesus’ teaching that H Schurmann is able to insist that Jesus’ message was primarily about God and puts him at the centre.32 The suggestion here is that God himself rather than the KG was primary for Jesus. I am rather doubtful whether this is a helpful distinction; it would be more cogent if it could be shown that teaching about God himself characterized the message of Jesus, but this is scarcely the case. Nevertheless, the significant fact emerges that the character of the KG is determined by the character and activity of God the Father. The Kingdom of God and the Spirit The second important element that must be brought into the picture is the Holy Spirit. The Evangelists were conscious that Jesus carried out his ministry in the power of the Spirit who was bestowed upon him at his baptism. That Jesus himself was aware of the source of his power is to be seen in the extremely significant text Matthew 12.28/Luke 11.20 Q where he comments that it is by the Spirit/finger of God that he does his mighty works and the KG has arrived. Whether we take ‘Spirit’ or ‘finger’ to be the original word used by Jesus and paraphrased by the use of the alternative word in one of the Gospels,33 the text testifies to the realization of divine power active in the ministry of Jesus to enable him to carry out his exorcisms. In another saying Jesus attributes his mighty works to the power of the Spirit and warns unbelievers against the danger of blaspheming or speaking against the Spirit (Mark 3.29/Matt. 12.21b; Matt. 12.32b/ Luke 12.10 Q. Again, there is some doubt about the precise wording used by Jesus, but the basic point is not in any doubt, namely that Jesus recognized that his mighty works were performed in the power of the Spirit. 29 Jeremias, New Testament Theology 1, pp. 61-8. See now J. Barr (above, p. 169, n. 64). 30 A. M. Hunter, Introducing New Testament Theology (London, 1957), p. 31. 31 For a profound discussion of the similarities and differences between the two petitions see E. Lohmeyer, The Lord’s Prayer (London, 1965), pp. 100-10. 32 H. Schürmann, Traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen (Dusseldorf, 1968), pp. 13-35; Das Gebet des Herrn (Leipzig, 1981), n. 222. 33 See Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, pp. 475ff. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that for Jesus the coming of the KG and the activity of the Spirit were tightly connected, so much so that we may suggest that it was the working of the Spirit in and through Jesus that constituted the actual coming of the KG.34 It is interesting that this connection is maintained outside the Synoptic Gospels, especially when we remember that references to the KG are less common. Birth by the Spirit and entry to the KG are linked together in John 3.3, 5, and Paul links the Spirit with the KG in Romans 14.17 and Galatians 5.21ff.; we may compare 1 Corinthians 4.20 where the KG is linked with power. Three points emerge here. The first is that the KG is brought directly into conflict with the evil rule of Satan whose power is placed over against that of the Spirit. The Evangelists recognize that this motif was a dominant one in the ministry of Jesus when they relate at the outset of the story how Jesus, immediately after he had received the Spirit, was straightway sent into the [p.226] desert to face Satan. Luke and John note how the events leading up to the passion and death of Jesus were instigated by the action of Satan through Judas (Luke 22.3; John 13.2, 27). It has sometimes been suggested that for Luke at least the period of Jesus’ ministry between the temptation in the desert and the passion was free from temptation by Satan, but this hypothesis will not stand up to examination, especially in the light of Luke 22.28. The second point is that the KG is associated with power. It is brought into being by the exercise of divine might, the ‘finger’ of God (cf. Exod. 8.16-19). As Paul says, the KG is not (simply) a matter of talking but of power (1 Cor. 4.20). A divine reality is at work in the world, and an important saying suggests that this power would become all the more evident after the ministry of Jesus (Mark 9.1). A third point to be noted is that the Spirit was promised in the Old Testament as a gift for the last days in the same way as the KG (Joel 2.28ff.). The KG and the Spirit are thus both signs of the eschatological activity of God now realized in the ministry of Jesus. The effect of these considerations is to underline the element of power in the KG as God’s activity in Jesus which extends beyond mere prophetic inspiration expressed in words. The Kingdom of God and Jesus The fact that God’s power is revealed in the KG in and through Jesus inevitably leads us to consider more closely his relation to the KG. It is the weakness of several treatments of the KG that they do not adequately consider the concept of messiahship. This is regrettable. For the word ‘messiah’ retained the sense of ‘anointed’ and was used to refer to a person endowed with the Spirit for a particular purpose authorized by God. We can leave aside the view that the 34 J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (London, 1975), pt 1. I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament,” Jesus the Saviour. Studies in New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity / London: SPCK, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 0830612733. pp.213-238. background to the use of the term in the Gospels is anointing to priesthood,35 and take it for granted that the reference is to an anointed ruler or king. Thus the term ‘messiah’ is implicitly associated with the three terms that we have already considered: God sets up his rule (the KG) through a king anointed by the Spirit. The question whether Jesus thought of himself as the Messiah is one that arouses much controversy. Since the early Church believed without question that he was the Messiah, the tendency to read back this title into his earthly ministry was obviously strong and therefore the texts must be examined with care. Yet the surprising fact is that, according to the Gospels, Jesus rarely used the word ‘messiah’ and rarely spoke in a way that suggests that he thought of himself as the Messiah. This fact, which helped to lead to the theory that Jesus did not think of himself as the Messiah and that such [p.227] references as there are in the Gospels do not represent his teaching, ought rather to be evaluated as indicating the historical verisimilitude of the Evangelists and should encourage us to view the actual texts in the Gospels where the term occurs with greater respect. Alongside these texts must be placed three other pieces of evidence. First, there is the way in which Jesus was addressed as ‘Son of David’, an appellation that is firmly present in the tradition (Mark 10.47ff.), although Jesus himself taught that it was an inadequate way of thinking of the Messiah (Mark 12.35-7). ‘Son of David’ was a synonym for ‘Messiah’.36 Second, there is the use of the term ‘Son of man’ by Jesus. This term was not taken up by the early Church to any appreciable extent and is characteristic of the diction ascribed to Jesus. Within the scope of the present essay it is not possible to bring together the evidence for the writer’s view that Jesus used this term as a messianic self designation that draws its meaning from Daniel 7 where a figure like a man is given rule and authority by God.37 Third, there is the fact that Jesus acted as an agent of God’s rule and did not merely announce it as a prophet might have done. Various of his actions could be regarded as messianic in the strict sense of the term.38 The cumulative effect of these three considerations is to show that Jesus did act messianically and that he must have been conscious that in doing so he was fulfilling the role of the Messiah. That is to say, the precise form that the KG took in the mind of Jesus was a messianic form as opposed to the kind of conception of the KG where a Messiah is not specifically present.39 If so, we face the question as to why Jesus did not publicly use the actual term ‘messiah’ of himself. The reason usually advanced is that he wished to avoid the misleading implications of a 35 The view of G. Friedrich, ‘Beobachtungen zur messianischen Hoherpriesterwartung in den Synoptikern’, ZTK, 53, 1956, pp. 265-311, has been refuted by F. Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel (Göttingen, 1964), pp. 231-41. 36 See C. Burger, Jesus als Davidssohn (Göttingen, 1970); he does not regard the tradition as historical. On Mark 12.35-37 see Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, pp. 743-9. 37 I. H. Marshall, The Origins of New Testament Christology (London, 1976), ch. 4. 38 J. D. G. Dunn, ‘The...

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